The Rosinbelly


Murphy Tannehill a unique individual

By Charles L. Tannehill
Special to The Journal

Murphy A. Tannehill was a unique individual, but that is true of every man. He had traits that made him stand out and above the average man. He was first and fore most honest and fair. He did not own a pair of "rose tinted glasses," everything to him was right or wrong; black or white. There were no shades of gray.

This was evident in looking at his record of service as a representative on the multiple USDA Soil and Water District boards, not because he moved his domicile, but because the powers that be changed the boundaries of the district. Whereever there was a problem in a district, they would find reasons to change the boundaries of the troubling district to include "Mr. Murphy."

In one district, a state representative was serving on the board and openly, blatantly using board equipment and manpower, on his own properties just as if they were his very own. This didn't last long when Mr. Murphy's hometown of Urania suddenly was part of that troubled district. It took about a year and an embarrassed representative paid back to the district the estimated value of the misused assets and gladly promised that it would never happen again.

Murphy Tannehill was my father, and he had and has one proud son. I am always thrilled when an older person sees me and says, "You must be Murphy Tannehill's son, you look just like him. I have a sister, Charlotte Westbrook in Tupelo, MS, and my identical twin brother Richard who lives in Baton Rouge.

He believed that his sons should work, and work we did, every Saturday and holiday and then when we were in college we were expected to drive home from Baton Rouge and to be ready to go to work Saturday morning. We were never paid as such for our work but there was always money available when we were ready to go somewhere or to do something.

One of his most satisfying endeavors was his publication of The Rosinbelly, a mimeographed, legal size sheet that he wrote weekly from April 21, 1942 through August 21, 1945. It was essentially a WWII "hometown newspaper" for the men and women from Urania (or with a connection to Urania,) Most of the time it had a hand drawn cartoon (not always suitable for a Sunday School Class), but always packed with news from home.

Every month or so he would attach an extra page or two listing the names and addresses of those on his mailing list. This allowed them to contact each other, some times to find that they were serving on the same base or post and were not aware of it.

It was typed over in the Lumber Office by Ruth Proctor. Mr. Quincy T. Hardtner, President of The Urania Lumber Company, Ltd, furnished the paper and postage.

After the war was over, he put together and published a directory with the pictures of all of the Rosinbellies that he could locate.

The original copy of The Rosinbelly is in the Archives of the Louisiana Tech University Library.

Tannehill was of the era when a person could go into most any town and be certain of finding at least two honest and honorable men, the banker and he postmaster. He had the complete trust of Mrs. John McKeithen, a mere wisp of a lady with her homemade bonnet, who had lost her trust in banks after the 1929 depression. She asked Tannehill if he would keep her money for her. He said that he would and put it in an envelope, had her sigh across the flap, put it in his office safe, and told her whenever she wanted "to put some in or take some out, to just come in and ask for her envelope." This arrangement lasted until her death.

He served on the original board of directors of the Hardtner Memorial Hospital, when it was built to replace the company clinic.

Mr. Murphy was involved in many other activities and cited for his work on each. He was chairman of the Ward Two Fund raising activities for both the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross. The Boy Scouts awarded him their Silver Beaver recognition and The Order of the Arrow.

He was the first chairman of the LaSalle Parish Library Board of Control. It was the only parish library established and a tax passed to support it without a demonstration library first being established by the Louisiana State Library. Having served many years on the State Library Board he went on to become its Chairman.

Mr. Tannehill served as Postmaster in Urania for 32 years, and in 2008 the United States Congress passed a law naming the post office the Murphy A. Tannehill Postal Facility.

He was married to the former Evelyn Davidson of Vienna, LA. They moved to Tupelo, MS in 1982 to be near their daughter Charlotte.

He died there in 1993.

A note about the title "The Rosinbelly": It has a history. First, there were two positions in the logging and sawmill business that earned you the moniker "a rosinbelly." First were the men in the woods that pulled the crosscut saws and got rosin on their bellies. The others were the men that pulled the lumber off the green chain at the sawmill. In writing, it was the name given to a weekly publication my father, the late Murphy A. Tannehill, published for the men and women serving in WWll from Urania, LA. For me, it was the title of a front-page personal column I wrote when I owned and published the Oakdale Journal, and later as editor of The Ruston Daily Leader.